Tag Archives: south africa

Cape Town: wine, wonders of nature and whoops

28 Apr

Cape Town surprised me by its hospitality and its beauty. I had heard it before but seeing it for myself, solidified it. I could live there, for sure. However, it would be a long way to come home to see my friends and family. 30 hour flights aren’t something you want to do all the time. Eek! There’s only so much stretching and walking you can do to stay limber. Cape Town is about as far away from Portland as you can get, or at least one of the farthest places you can go.

There’s a lot to see and do in and around Cape Town. We kept our rental car an extra day (see previous posts on the road trip and adventures on the Garden Route) so we could drive South and see the penguins near Simon’s Town. That was a lot of fun. You see tons of penguins sitting on the beach and frolicking in the water. They’ll walk right up to you and pose for a picture. They’re super cute. It was hard to refrain from wanting to pick them up and snuggle. Simon’s Town also has a lot of cute shops for souvenirs and great coffee shops to grab a snack.

Penguin Audience

From Simon’s Town we ventured down to Cape Good Hope to do some hiking and checking out the views from the South-western most point in the continent. Not to be confused with the Southern most point. That’s further East. We did that on our way in.

To finish off our last day with the rental car we ate and watched the sun go down in Camps Bay. That area has some of the best beaches in Cape Town. Plus it’s great for people watching.

Wine

North and East of Cape Town is a great wine scene with delicious, cheap bottles you can bring home with you. If everyone in your party wants to drink, like we did, I recommend a tour company. You get to venture out and meet some new friends, drink great wine and see more of the countryside. Plus, you have a local there to point out all the cool things and answer all the questions you’ve been dying to ask someone.

Wine Tasting

Cape Town has a lot of art sculptures in town which makes walking around that much more interesting for me, as an art lover and photographer. There are a ton of good places to eat. If you love Indian food like I do, you’ll be in heaven. For less than five American Dollars you can have a feast. Cape Town also has a lot of shops and markets. There are a lot of good deals to be had if you are into bargaining. I personally love bargaining. It’s fun and it’s usually a win-win scenario. You get a good deal and the seller gets a good sale. So much more exciting than shopping in the states, in my opinion. Paying full retail is just not as interactive.

Wonders of Nature

There’s hiking on Table Mountain and Signal Hill. We chose to go up to Table Mountain for sunset, where I met a friend from home. Crazy right?! We rode the cable car up and down. It was spectacular and so much fun. We felt like we were sitting on the edge of the earth as the sun went down. If you didn’t know it, Table Mountain is part of the new 7 wonders of nature. Not to be confused with the 7 wonders of the world. See them all if you can! I know I’m trying.

Sitting on the Edge of the Table

Whoops, you ask?
Of course. Every trip has some mishaps.

I’m giving you a fare warning that it can be windy, really windy on the Cape. I was walking along the V&A waterfront wearing a skirt and I was trying to keep it from flying up and being inappropriate in public. I was also wearing my lightweight pair of Maui Jim’s. As I was trying to keep my skirt down in this particularly strong gust of wind that came out of no where, my glasses were ripped off my face. I could not believe what was happening. Life went into slow motion and I screamed. Tried to run after them and poof they leaped into the Atlantic. I ran and peaked over the side of the pier and they were no where to be seen. I was sooooo sad. I thought about jumping in after them but I refrained. I was already a spectacle with everyone in the restaurant that was watching through the wall of windows.

Act of God is not covered under warranty. I asked, just to make sure. But the Westin was nice enough to help drown my sorrows in some treats and champagne. Good thing it was my last night, as I wouldn’t be able to see without my trusty shades. We went everywhere together (see below).

All-in-all my trip to Africa was amazing, even with the couple of bad things that happened. By bad, I mean losing my expensive sun glasses and my converter. I also had a bit of an upset tummy for a few days. Not too shabby for a three week trip.

I still do miss my Maui Jim’s, my favorite sunglasses, ever! (and I’m not even paid to say that)…we went to so many cool places together like Cambodia twice!

Power Posing in my awesome Maui Jim's

 

If you haven’t already you can read previous posts on my journey to Cape Town: On the road in Lesotho, Garden Route and five star service, Zanzibar a coastal gem, Kenya and my dream safari.

Also, loved my new travel shoes! They outperformed and I would highly recommend them.

Merrell Travel Shoes

What’s on your list?

 

Five star service and adventures on the garden route

14 Apr

While doing our road trip along the Garden Route I reviewed two hotels. They were both wonderful places to stay and I can’t say enough good things about both of them to anyone that will listen. So, I’m going to tell you too. Along with some other fun things we did along the way, between the hotel stops.

The first hotel I reviewed was Tsala Treetop Lodge. It’s a quiet, serene place to stay away from the city. Plus, my own private pool. Woohoo! Ok, I had to share with my friend, but still. This is the second time in my life I’ve had my own pool. I thought the first time was a once in a lifetime thing, but I was happy to be wrong, on that point, at least. Tsala is a great place to unplug and connect with nature or your travel companions (even though there’s wifi and TV—you don’t need it). To me, this was a great rest stop after two weeks of being on the road or in the air. The suites are set up so that the lines between outside and in are blurred. It’s truly a great nature escape and a good spot to stay and explore the nature that surrounds the area. You can read more about the hotel in my review, plus there’s a link to book your stay! If I’ve convinced you enough that Africa is now on your bucket list.

Tsala Living Room

Bridge adventures on the Garden Route

Things to explore near Tsala include the tallest bungee jumping bridge in the world, Bloukrans Bridge. Even if you aren’t going to jump you can still go out on the bridge. If that’s too scary or it’s raining, like when we visited, you can watch from the viewing area (indoors or out). It’s really cool to see people jumping. I was wishing we had more time and I had a better back so that I too, could jump.

The other cool bridge to see in the area is the Paul Sauer Bridge, also known as Storms River bridge. I almost caused my friend to veer off the road as I shouted when we drove over. “Holy crap that’s beautiful!” Good news, there’s a rest area near by, with a walk way under the bridge. There’s also a sidewalk on the bridge so you can walk out on it and observe the beauty of the gorge. Stick your toes off the edge, take photos, you know, the crazy things I do. Tsitsikamma National Park is just down the river from Storms River Bridge with fun hikes, suspension foot bridges, a waterfall and beach access. You could even stay there on the beach if you wanted to. Alas, we did not stay, we had our night in the trees.

If you haven’t seen any elephants on safari check out the elephant park near by Tsala. Or maybe you have, so you go anyway because you love elephants. We passed on that this time around since we had our fair share in the Mara.

Storms River Gorge

I know what you are thinking, “Holy crap, that’s Storms River? That’s beautiful!” But there’s so much more beauty to be had in South Africa. This barely scratches the surface. I couldn’t take enough photos to capture the beauty to be had in Africa.

Storms River

The edge of the Earth

Before you get to Cape Town, make sure you detour to the southern most point in Africa, where the Indian and the Pacific Ocean meet. It’s a fun place to stop, complete with a lighthouse, rocky shore, boardwalk and commemorative plaque. We gazed at the water, snapped some goofy photos and then hoped back in the car so we could get to Cape Town before it was too late.

Far from Home

Arriving at our last stop in Africa

Coming into Cape Town we had quite the welcome. An absolutely stunning sunset on the mountains. We had to stop driving a couple times just to capture it’s changing beauty.

Sunset On Arrival

The other hotel I reviewed was close to one of the best beaches in Cape Town. You can walk there from the hotel. The hotel is on a quiet street with great views of the water. The service is stellar and there’s a great breakfast, spa, pool and work out room too! You can read more about it on the review site, plus there’s a link to book your stay or share it with your friends! I highly recommend it as a place to stay if you like personal service.

O on Kloof Lobby

Up next: Cape Town and my travel mishaps.

Previous African adventures: my dream safari, wandering through Stone Town in Zanzibar, detouring through Lesotho, five star service and Garden Route adventures.

An African path less traveled, through Lesotho

31 Mar

When I think of Africa I think big, really big. It’s a huge continent with so much to see and so much diversity. What’s a good way to see a lot of things? A road trip! So many people would say this is crazy, but I usually do the crazy things that my friends don’t do. That’s just who I am, always have been.

After safari in Kenya and a few days in Zanzibar we flew into Johannesburg for the last leg of the trip. We rented a car and drove down to Cape Town on the Garden Route. But before getting to the Garden Route we detoured to Lesotho, one of two landlocked countries in South Africa. Oh man, was that a great detour. Lesotho is so pretty and not touristy. It’s even hard to find a place to stay outside of a B&B or as they call them, guest houses. The villages are quaint with thatched roofs and nice people. The scenery is incredible with it’s mountains and fields of grass. The city names may be hard to pronounce and the roads curvy but it’s worth the detour. No Visa required, just go!

Road Trip Scenery

A word of caution about the border crossing. We had a bit of trouble because our friend traveling with us had a pretty full passport and the pages that were empty were in the middle. Apparently, not every border believes in stamping all over the place. Lesotho would rather have it orderly and all the blank pages in the back. Or at least this was his excuse for at first rejecting my friends passport. We were able to get a second opinion and he let us in. Whew! Crisis averted and back on track for our detour.

When we arrived at our, out of the way B&B, the view was great as it was perched on the side of a mountain. And it was perfect timing for one of the most incredible sunsets. It was stunning orange on one side with a pink glow the other direction. 360 degrees of stunning, if you ask me. Plus, shortly after sunset there was a lightning storm. I’ve never had the chance to photograph lightning, so I gave it a try. I was able to capture a couple strikes, but it was certainly a challenge. One that I’ll gladly take on again given the chance. So rewarding to do something you’ve never done before even if you weren’t perfect at it. The journey is the fun part.

The food at our B&B was a home cooked vegetarian meal. A bit overpriced but delicious. I would highly recommend knowing the cost of the food before saying yes to a meal at a B&B. But we were famished and tired from the drive. We were ready to settle in for the night with a full tummy.

On the way through South Africa and Lesotho the scenery reminded me of so many places I’ve been including Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Kansas. Wherever you go, you’re never far from home, it becomes a part of you.

After staying the night in Lesotho we drove down to Port Elizabeth to check out the beach and begin the true Garden Route. The drive was long to get there and not the best food* on the road but we made it in time to see the sun setting…again. Found some great comfort food and a comfortable bed to sleep in. The next morning we checked out the beach, had another wonderful meal, coffee with a smiley face on it and made our way along the green, mountainous garden route, partly skimming the sea.

*Like the states, a lot of the food you see on the side of the road or at gas stations is “fast food” or Denny’s style. Not my choice, being the Oregonian that I am I’m used to farm fresh produce that caters to my select-etarian tendencies.

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Next on the blog: Garden Route adventures, Cape Town and my travel mishaps.